Top side . . . The Union Rugby Club's 1960 Citizens Shield-winning squad: Top row, from left, Murray McCulloch, Robbie Lory, George Gebbie, Rob Russell, Brian McCone; middle row, Morrie Direen, Jim Ellis, Max Lory, Dave Finlay, Reg Direen, Bill Simpson, John Mckenzie; front row, Sel McCone (coach), Tom Conlan, Ken Direen, Gavin McCone, Fred O'Brien, Max Eckhold, Stuart Russell; sitting, Alec Farmer, Murray Watson, Graeme Pringle, Jack Eckhardt. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The Union Rugby Club’s rich history will be celebrated in June.

Union was formed in 1956, when the Ngapara and Tokarahi-Duntroon clubs combined.

The amalgamation came about when Omarama, which had had a team in the senior country competition, was unable to field a team that season. That left only three teams able to compete, including Kurow.

In a document that delves into the history of the Ngapara club, thought to have been formed in 1907, said “as a result the sub-union had no choice but to accept the invitation of the North Otago Rugby Football Union to play in the senior town competition”.

More than 30 years later, Union helped establish the Valley Rugby Club, which was formed in 1988 when three rural clubs within a 10km radius – Weston Pirates, Enfield and Union – were unable to sustain themselves in the senior competition.

Union, which won the Citizens Shield three seasons in a row from 1968, now fields teams in North Otago’s schoolboy competition only.

Several events have been planned to mark the club’s 60th anniversary – albeit delayed – to be held on June 2-3.

A social gathering will take place at the clubrooms in Ngapara, before several Union JAB games and a golden oldies game are played on the Saturday.

Former and present players will be acknowledged on Saturday afternoon, followed by a function at which 15 specially-made rugby jerseys will be auctioned.

Organising committee member Reg Direen, who has had a long association with the club as a player and administrator, said it was possible further games for current and former club members would be arranged on Saturday afternoon if there were enough numbers.

It is hoped 200 to 300 people will attend the reunion, the first held since 2006.

Mr Direen said it was important the club maintained strong links with past and present players.

“I think it’s great, because they’re quite spread out all over New Zealand, really, and they need to come back. To get them all back together again is great. We had 170-odd last time.”

Peter Stackhouse, who is also on the organising committee, said it was events like the reunion which held the club together.

“We’ve had to come up with ideas to keep the club and the clubrooms going. We run touch on Friday nights – nearly 100 people come for that – so I think we’re reasonably proud our building is still in the district.”

All money raised at the reunion will be put back into the maintenance of the clubrooms and for the benefit of the club’s schoolboy teams.

Mr Stackhouse said while the club’s teams lacked the resources of other clubs, they managed to hold their own.

“We practice at least once a week – if not twice – to keep up with the town teams and increasing the skills of the younger ones.”

– People can register their interest in the reunion on the Ngapara Union Rugby Club Reunion Facebook page, by emailing or by calling (03) 432-6891 or (03) 431-2833.

Proud history . . . Union Rugby Club stalwart Reg Direen with a photograph of the club’s 1960 side, which won its first Citizens Shield that year. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
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